World

Jokowi 'warns general who 
suspended ties' with Australia

Indonesian military chief's suspension of defence pact with neighbour catches his president off-guard

JAKARTA Indonesia President Joko Widodo reproached his military chief in a meeting last week amid concerns the commander was "out of control", after he unilaterally suspended defence cooperation with Australia, two sources briefed on the meeting said.

Mr Widodo's intervention highlights alarm about General Gatot Nurmantyo, who promotes the notion that Indonesia is besieged by"proxy wars", in which foreign states seek to undermine the nation by manipulating non-state actors.

Analysts and some of Mr Widodo's aides are also concerned that Gen Nurmantyo is laying the groundwork for an expansion of the military's role in civilian affairs and may have political ambitions himself.

Mr Widodo, the first president from outside the military and political establishment, needed to demonstrate his authority as the country's commander-in-chief, one senior government official said.

"With Gatot, the feeling is like he's a little out of control," he said.

Gen Nurmantyo declared a rupture in military ties after an Indonesian officer found "offensive" teaching material while on a language training course in Australia late last year.

The material suggested that Indonesia's Papua province should be independent and mocked the nation's state ideology, Pancasila, according to the general.

One of the officials told Reuters that Mr Widodo and others in the government were caught off-guard when local media reported Gen Nurmantyo's announcement of the suspension in military ties with Australia.

While the general was not formally reprimanded, the president issued him a warning during a meeting at a presidential palace in Bogor, outside Jakarta, said the official.

The meeting was confirmed by another senior government aide, who also spoke on condition of anonymity.

Gen Nurmantyo declined to be interviewed. A military spokesman declined to comment on the meeting.

The senior government official said: "We suspect that Gatot is exploiting this incident for his own political agenda... He has been making many public appearances and speeches lately. Frankly, we think many of them (the speeches) about proxy wars and the threat to Indonesia are ridiculous." - REUTERS

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